It has been said that ballet is a dying art, but on the evidence of Scottish Ballet’s autumn tour, nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, it depends on your definition of “ballet”. If you’re looking for wall-to-wall pointe shoes and tutus then yes, it might be time to call in the defibrillator. But the increasingly blended world of ballet and contemporary means companies such as Scottish Ballet present work which can just be defined as good dance, irrespective of labels.
The choreographers behind tonight’s triple bill (or double bill plus a “surprise”, as artistic director, Christopher Hampson put it in his introductory talk) represent different stages of the new guard.
Scottish Ballet dancer Sophie Laplane has made a few short pieces for the company recently, but this is her first outing on the big stage. Maze, a fascinating work for four dancers, is all spiky elbows and jutting chins. A duet for two men is followed by a duet for two women – each as angular and gorgeously misshapen as the last. So it’s inevitable the two couples will find each other in the final section, on a kind of awkward double date.
Watching Laplane’s work, I was reminded of the great Swedish choreographer, Mats Ek – which says everything you need to know about this young dancer’s potential.
American choreographer Bryan Arias spent many years dancing with Nederlands Dans Theater and, like Laplane, his Motion of Displacement had a distinctly European feel. Inspired by his mother’s perilous journey from El Salvador to California as a teenager, Arias has created a work full of humanity. There’s nothing literal about the way he tells her story, just a sense of travel, fast decision-making and people helping each other in times of need. Several strong female solos hint at the drive and faith that kept Maria Arias going, and the whole piece is a thought-provoking, beautifully constructed introduction to another new talent on the choreographic scene.
Javier de Frutos has long since proved his worth, and Elsa Canasta oozes confidence and skill. Set around a sweeping staircase, which 14 dancers fall in love on and jump off daringly, the work is a heady homage to the music of Cole Porter. At turns achingly tender and athletic, the piece has so many layers it easily bears repeat viewing. Joining the dancers on stage, superb vocalist Nick Holder treats Porter’s songs with subtlety and power as required, backed by the sumptuous sound of the Scottish Ballet orchestra.
• Theatre Royal, Glasgow, today; Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 29-30 September, and on tour